Sex-Related Injury Not Compensable, Australia Court Rules

An Australian government employee who was injured while having sex on a work-related trip doesn’t qualify for workers’ compensation, the nation’s highest court said in a ruling praised by the employment minister.

The High Court of Australia today overturned a federal appeal court ruling that the woman was hurt during a work interlude and entitled to compensation from Comcare, the country’s work safety agency that pays for medical expenses and time missed from work as a result of injury.

The ruling is a “victory for common sense,” Minister for Employment Eric Abetz said in an e-mailed statement. “Instances such as this where an employee seeks to stretch the boundaries of entitlements are of great concern.”

The woman, whose name can’t be published and who is referred to in court papers as PVYW, was in her late 30s when she sought compensation from Comcare, according to court documents. She claimed that while engaged in sexual intercourse with an acquaintance, a glass light fitting above her bed was pulled from its mount and struck her in the face, causing nose, mouth and psychological injuries.

The human relations worker at a federal government agency wasn’t encouraged to have sex by her employer and as a result isn’t eligible for work-related compensation, the majority of the High Court said in a summary of the ruling on its website.

Injury Circumstances

“The circumstances in which the employee was injured must be connected to an inducement or encouragement by the employer,” the court’s majority said in the summary.

The worker traveled to a country town in New South Wales in 2007, where she was to observe a budget review and meet local staff, according to the original federal court judgment. She met a male friend who lived in the town for dinner and they had sex at her motel afterward, according to the court documents.

After she was hit by the light fitting, she was taken to a hospital for treatment, according to the documents.

Australia’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled the woman’s injuries were unrelated to her work. That decision was overturned by Federal Court Justice John Nicholas on April 19, 2012. The Federal Court of Appeal upheld Nicholas’s ruling on Dec. 13.

The case is Comcare v. PVYW. 2013/HCA41. High Court of Australia (Canberra).

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Schneider in Sydney at jschneider5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net

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